If you’ve been receiving a flood of credit-card offers, you aren’t alone, said Kara McGuire at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Credit experts say card offers “are hitting the mailbox at rates not seen in a long while.” Since fewer Americans carry a credit-card balance these days, lenders are trying to make up lost profits by netting new customers and encouraging existing ones to use their cards more often.
The offers are often tempting, including 0 percent balance transfers, waived annual fees, and thousands of free frequent-flier miles. “But there’s usually a catch.” If you get an offer that seems too good to pass up, read “every last bit of fine print.” Take stock of your financial situation, too, and make sure you aren’t “missing any terms or conditions that would cost” you in the long run.
Rules for smart renters
Before signing a lease, take care “to avoid common and costly renter’s errors,” said A.J. Smith atCredit.com. The most important — and obvious — thing to do is to read the lease. “Bring up any issues you have with the document” before you sign, and make sure you fully understand any fees and requirements. That includes policies covering security deposits, utilities, neighbor disputes, pets, and roommates.
Next, consider renter’s insurance, which will protect your personal property and cover you from liability if anyone gets hurt in your new place. Finally, “it’s a good idea to take photos or videos documenting the apartment’s condition and note any pre-existing damage” before you move in. Your security deposit will thank you.
Help choosing disability insurance
If your company has ditched long-term disability insurance, don’t despair, said Ron Lieber at The New York Times. Many employers are lowering their disability-insurance payouts or leaving workers to find their own coverage. The insurance replaces some fraction of your income in the event an illness or injury prevents you from working; premiums tend to run roughly 1 to 3 percent of your annual salary.
But few people give the coverage much thought, and deciding on a policy can be tough. Luckily, you can see whether disability insurance is a smart purchase for you with the help of a site called PolicyGenius.com, which aims to eliminate consumers’ confusion with an online “insurance checkup” tool that can provide quotes and clear comparisons for different types of coverage and policies.
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, made its debut. Now you can flash your new iPhone in the checkout line to pay for food, clothing and other goods. There’s no need to pull out your credit card.
But don’t leave your wallet or purse behind quite yet: Despite a few dozen retail chains pledging support for Apple Pay, so-called contactless payments are still new. Smaller merchants, in particular, aren’t likely to have the necessary equipment right away.
Here’s a guide to how Apple Pay works and what to expect:
Q. What do I need to use Apple Pay?
A. To fully use Apple Pay, you’ll need an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus with iOS 8.1, a free software update released Monday. You’ll also get some online-only features with the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 coming out later this week. Older devices won’t work, even with the 8.1 update.
You’ll also need a credit card that works with Apple Pay. Major credit card issuers such as American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo are backing Apple Pay. Apple says more than 500 banks are participating, representing about 83 percent of the card volume in the U.S.
To get started, use the Passbook app or go to “Passbook & Apple Pay” in the settings.
Q. Is it secure?
A. Although security measures are never foolproof, the Apple Pay system is safer than many current pay methods.
For one thing, a substitute account number is assigned when you set up Apple Pay. Merchants get that instead of your real card number. In addition, a verification code is created for each transaction, based in part on unique keys on the phone. Even if hackers get that substitute number, they wouldn’t be able to generate the verification code without having possession of your phone, so fraudulent transactions would be declined.
Other services are starting to use one-time verification codes, too, but not all of them use the substitute account number. By using that substitute, a credit card issuer could cancel the number just for the phone, should you lose it. You wouldn’t need to replace the entire card.
Apple says it knows nothing about your transactions, which are handled directly by the credit card processors.
Q. Where can I use Apple Pay?
A. Most retail stores that accept contactless payments should be able to use Apple Pay, as well as Google Wallet, Softcard and other services that are based on a wireless-chip technology called near-field communication, or NFC. It’s possible that some stores have the hardware in place, but haven’t turned on the functionality yet. The debut of Apple Pay is likely to prompt those merchants to do so.
A few dozen chains, including Macy’s, McDonald’s, Subway and Whole Foods, are expected to accept Apple Pay right away, though some of their stores might not be ready yet. Other retailers expected to do so by the end of the year include Staples, Urban Outfitters and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Apple is distributing logos to merchants that accept Apple Pay, similar to symbols for Visa and MasterCard, though the lack of a logo doesn’t necessarily mean Apple Pay isn’t accepted.
In addition, you can use Apple Pay to make online purchases within apps, without having to enter card numbers, billing addresses and other information. It’s up to merchants to enable this with app updates. Groupon, OpenTable, Staples and Target are among the initial ones to do so. You’ll see a button for “Apple Pay” or “Buy with Apple Pay.” The new iPads will be able to make in-app payments, but they lack NFC chips for in-store payments.
Q. What about smaller merchants?
A. Dry cleaners, local restaurants and other smaller businesses are less likely to have the equipment ready. All told, there are more than 200,000 payment terminals in the U.S. capable of making “contactless” transactions, but that’s out of several million.
Starting late next year, merchants will be liable for fraudulent transactions if they don’t have equipment with an enhanced security system called EMV. Because merchants have to upgrade equipment to EMV anyway, they can get the NFC capability for not much more.
But many equipment makers hesitated because demand for NFC hasn’t been clear. Soon after Apple announced support, iPad-based retail payment system ShopKeep decided to start including NFC and plans to distribute new equipment to its 10,000 merchants over the next year. Other equipment makers are expected to do the same.
Even though relatively few small merchants can now accept NFC payments such as Apple Pay, that’s bound to change in a year when the EMV deadline comes.
Q. Do I have to pay to use it?
A. Apple hasn’t said much about how it plans to make money from Apple Pay transactions, but it’s safe to say that credit card companies would be the ones covering any fees. Card companies might factor in those costs in the regular fees that consumers and merchants pay. However, those companies might be able to use savings from fraud reduction to cover any Apple Pay costs.
Q. How does this differ from other contactless systems?
A. Most noticeable will be the use of the fingerprint ID sensor to authorize transactions. Right now, it’s easy to pull out a plastic credit card, so any mobile-payment system will have to be just as easy. That can’t be said when you have to spend time typing in a passcode at the checkout line. The fingerprint ID lets you bypass that with one tap.
Do you smell that? That’s the smell of fall! And with that smell comes all the fun things you get to do in October like planning Halloween festivities, putting together an intricate and spooky costume that even your own kids won’t recognize you in, and scaring your in-laws with a huge Jack-O-Lantern carved like a creepy ghoul or ghost. And perhaps the best part is all of the goodies floating around offices and in everyone’s homes!
October is a really fun and exciting time of year but if you are unprepared and don’t plan ahead, Halloween can quickly turn into a nightmare (pun intended).
Instead of taking a frugal spin on Halloween and how to save money, this post is simply going to examine some great ways to be practical, keep things manageable and, most of all, keep you and your kids safe:
Tips for Choosing Your Costume
As a kid, I was always a little disappointed that my parents didn’t get me the biggest and baddest costume on the block. But I now realize there was a reason most of my costumes were simple: those complex costumes would have become unwearable after just a few minutes in them. Half the time, I ended up taking even the simplest of costumes off and leaving it somewhere because I was too tired to wear it anymore. The lesson?
When planning and creating costumes, be practical. Sure, that 100% to scale replica of Fluffy from Harry Potter would be a great costume, but as soon as the initial excitement wears off, you will have to find a way to carry that huge thing around and Trick-or-Treating will become unbearable.
Bigger is not always better, and there are plenty of completely manageable costumes to choose from that will still get a great reaction at the Halloween potluck. Make sure you are able to easily see, walk, and carry your costume so that the long night ahead of you can be enjoyed to the fullest.
If you do plan to take your kids Trick-or-Treating, make sure costumes will be warm enough as well. Hypothermia is much scarier than anything a wig and a little makeup can create!
Be Smart and Safe
When leaving your home for Halloween fun, make sure things are locked up tight. Turn off your porch light so that Trick-or-Treaters know you won’t be participating this year. Do not leave a note on the door though, as this is an invitation for burglary. Instead, leave a TV and some lights on inside to make it look like you are home but don’t celebrate the holiday. Also, let neighbors that will be home know where you will be, what phone number they can reach you at, and when you will be coming back in case anything should go wrong.
Make sure your yard is clear of anything you don’t want broken. You never know what mischievous teenagers will do when they find your favorite yard gnome after you failed to appear at the door with a big bowl of goodies. More »
Do you want to see a financial advisor jump?
Bring up one of these frightening investments. These ideas give financial advisors goose bumps because they’re like Halloween candy: seemingly free, hard to resist, and in this case, likely to deliver financial cavities.
1. Investments bought through credit cards. Using a credit card to buy stock or other investments is essentially creating your own high-risk margin, says Donna Skeels Cygan, a certified financial planner and author of “The Joy of Financial Security: The Art and Science of Becoming Happier, Managing Your Money Wisely, and Creating a Secure Financial Future.”
It’s tempting to use a card that offers an introductory interest rate of zero to indulge in an individual stock, a mutual fund or commodity that looks like a great deal. You would let the investment regain value, then sell it, pay off the card before interest kicks in and keep the difference.
What could go wrong? Cygan counts the ways: The investment continues to lose value and you owe more than it’s worth. Then you’re stuck paying off the card with interest, and in the process, you ding your credit rating. Just don’t do it.
2. Marijuana companies. The bad idea du jour is investing in medical marijuana companies, says Linda Williams, professor of business administration at Tidewater Community College. “One person told me it’s like getting in on the ground floor of R.J. Reynolds,” she says.
Vending machines for marijuana, farms and distribution centers are all sprouting opportunities that will snuff out investors’ money, Williams says. “This is a generation that has grown up without marijuana having a stigma, so kids think it’s a legitimate investment vehicle,” she says. “But medical marijuana is scary because the regulations are still forming. The market could go up in smoke with one lawsuit for wrongful death by someone with [marijuana] in their system.”
3. Venture funds, commodities and other complicated investments. Don’t confuse the Securities and Exchange Commission reports and public listing status as a seal of approval for the company, Williams adds. “Do your due diligence. And if you don’t understand what the company does, don’t buy the stock,” she says.
4. Thinly disguised pyramid schemes. Online social networks have put multilevel marketing schemes on steroids, Williams says. She recently received an email from a student asking her opinion of World Ventures, which describes itself as a “home-based direct selling travel club,” but Williams describes it as a pyramid scheme. In fact, the Better Business Bureau has put an alert on World Ventures. More »
Though the holiday season in December is generally the costliest time of the year for many families, the expenses of Halloween can be surprisingly immense. Buying Halloween Costumes, candy, special accessories, decorations, and treats for school events can seriously bust your bank account.
The biggest problem is that many people don’t budget for Halloween as they would for Christmas or Easter. Instead, Halloween purchases are often unexpected and made at the last minute.
So, what’s a savvy parent to do when Halloween rolls around? Celebrate on the cheap, of course. By finding more affordable ways to decorate, dress, snack, and party, Halloween doesn’t have to be a budget-busting night. In fact, you might find that a little DIY spirit actually makes it a lot more fun.
Costumes can be the priciest part of any Halloween, thanks to markup from stores. To save on outfits and accessories, skip the mad rush on October 30th and get creative with your kids.
- Use Items You Already Own. For the best DIY costumes, use what you already have. From articles of clothing, to makeup, to cardboard pieces, to props, there’s a chance you already have the makings of a great costume around the house. Take a look in your kids’ closets and also your own – you never know what castoffs you might have that would make the perfect funky costume.
- Swap With Friends. One of the reasons buying Halloween costumes is so painful is because kids only wear them once or twice. Chances are, you know parents who feel the same way and would be happy to swap and lend costumes accordingly. Remember that if you borrow a costume, make sure to keep it in good condition. After a night of running around outside and eating candy, it may need a good washing before you return it.
- Buy “Dress Up” Instead of a “Costume.” Don’t want to spend $50 on a deluxe princess dress? Try this little secret: Leave the costume section of the store and head to the toy section. There, you often find “dress-up” costumes not branded for Halloween that are much cheaper than the seasonal versions. A princess dress in the dress-up section usually runs around $20. There may be some minor differences, but the $30 savings is worth a little shopping around.
- Skip the Masks. Not only are masks a pricey part of a costume, they can be dangerous. In fact,Safe Kids Worldwide warns that masks obstruct both vision and breathing in kids, and should be avoided. Skip the cost and the risk and opt for face paint instead. It’s safer and cheaper, especially when you use products that you already own. Eyeliner is especially great for drawing on mustaches.
The answer, according to Top Colleges Online, is both yes and no. Over the past decade, colleges have begun to offer bespoke courses in entrepreneurship, including Babson College, MA, and Syracuse University, NY, and yet the average age of a first-time entrepreneur is, in fact, 40 years of age.
Could structured college courses, taught by entrepreneurs, provide today’s young people with the skills to launch startups earlier and more successfully? Or is the view to and talent for entrepreneurship something more personal and less tangible?
Take a look at the infographic below and judge for yourself.
(Click on image to enlarge)